Indian sparkling wine courtesy of Moët Hennessy. I’ve had a dreadful run of Indian red wines, with many exhibiting wild technical faults that render them basically undrinkable. Whites and rosés, however, have fared better. When I saw this on a restaurant wine list, I didn’t hesitate to give it a go, assuming (correctly) that it would, at least, be free of egregious winemaking faux pas.
Chandon’s Indian operations are new, with the first wines having been released in late 2013. Grapes are sourced from the Nashik region of Maharashtra, and the varieties that contribute to this sparkling rosé are Shiraz and Pinot Noir (an inadvertent nod to the Australian micro-tradition, I like to think).
To be clear, this recalls little of Champagne. Its hue is deep and tends towards a burnished red rather than the vivid pink or salmon one might expect. Mousse is lively and coarse, and the whole thing looks totally frivolous. Flavours are also quite unlike cool climate sparkling. These are robust, ripe fruit flavours with little of the lees influence that characterises many sparkling styles. There’s certainly no neutrality of fruit here.
All of which adds up to a shockingly enjoyable wine and one that goes well with food. It’s quite clever, really. This isn’t an aperitif style. Rather, it’s a wine that seems designed to pair with pungent, rich food. Forget notions of complexity and elegance, this doesn’t possess or require such things. Instead, it’s balanced to local food and has the acid cut required to wipe the palate clean after a mouthful of spiced deliciousness.
I’d do this again.
Source: Wine list
It’s not great.
With that out of the way, we can tackle the more interesting question of: why bother? India’s not renowned for its acceptance of wine, with beer and whisky tending to thrive at its expense. Yet the state of Maharashtra, centre of India’s wine industry and this writer’s present location, has a long history of growing table grapes. So why the hell not?
If nothing else, it’s interesting to see the beginnings of an industry. Local wines are enthusiastically promoted on many restaurant wine lists, and it seems a few players (Sula, Fratelli, Grover, Turning Point) dominate on premise. The varietal mix is decidedly unfocused. Whites range from Chenin Blanc to Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and (inevitably) Chardonnay. Reds include all the usual suspects — Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot — but I’ve also spotted some Sangiovese. I’ve also tasted a surprisingly palatable sparkling wine. No indigenous varieties yet spotted, alas.
The wines have ranged from cleanly commercial to downright faulty (a particular red wine I had the other night seemed a veritable catalogue of technical faults, and not in an interesting way). So far, the whites have been more successful, and this wine in particular shows some decent varietal character, if also a ragged structure and level of flavour dilution that fights against full satisfaction.
Paired with some local food, it went surprisingly well – the food’s pungent flavours didn’t entirely overwhelm the wine’s delicacy. One can’t help but think a relatively good food and wine match in this context must be more accidental than by design, though. Certainly, the prominent collaborations between Indian producers and those from (in this case) Italy and France (Michel Rolland’s name is stamped all over Grover’s wines) suggests an imported aesthetic rather than anything truly local and organic.
I hope to try a wider range over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.
Source: Wine list